Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl has said he is “personally appalled” by Public Accounts Committee chairperson Brian Stanley’s tweet celebrating the murder of British soldiers and has called for a “credible political response”.
n a response to a complaint he received from DUP leader Arlene Foster, the Ceann Comhairle said the matter should be addressed “at the earliest opportunity” to ensure “it would not be necessary to consider other actions”.
Mr Ó Fearghaíl said Mr Stanley’s comment was “highly disrespectful” to victims of IRA atrocities and an “affront to all those committed to democratic politics on the island of Ireland”.
On Saturday evening, Mr Stanley tweeted: “Kilmicheal (sic) (1920) and Narrow Water (1979) the 2 IRA operations that taught the elite of (the) British army and the establishment the cost of occupying Ireland. Pity for everyone they were such slow learners.” He has since issued an apology and has since deleted the tweet.
Mr Ó Fearghaíl said he is “particularly conscious” of the independent nature of his position.
However, he added: “I do believe that the statement on Twitter made by Deputy Stanley calls for a credible political response – one which sincerely acknowledges the hurt and offence caused to the families who lost loved ones in Narrow Water as well as the hurt and offence caused to those who suffered grievously during the thirty years of violence in Northern Ireland.”
“While I know him to be an experienced and fair-minded member of Dáil Éireann, I believe that it would be in keeping with the values and standards that we all hold dearly, particularly reconciliation and mutual respect, if the matter were to be more properly addressed at the earliest opportunity. In such circumstances, it would not be necessary to consider other actions,” he added.
Mr Ó Fearghaíl’s letter comes after Ms Foster complained to the Dáil chair saying Mr Stanley’s tweet caused “enormous offence to both the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland and wider society.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has weighed in behind the PAC chairperson after he appeared to celebrate the murder of British soldiers on Twitter.
Ms McDonald insisted Mr Stanley’s apology was enough and said she would not be asking him to step down from his €9,500 a year role as chair of the Dáil’s public spending watchdog.
Social Democrat co-leader and vice chair of the PAC Catherine Murphy said Ms McDonald had not gone far enough.
“Sinn Féin has a very big mandate after the General Election and that includes a lot of people who are not from the Sinn Féin tradition an it brings with it certain responsibilities that need to be respected,” Ms Murphy said.
“The PAC chair is a significant and high profile role and it is hugely disappointing that Mary Lou does not feel any more should be done,” she added.
Labour Party justice spokesperson Brendan Howlin said he expects Ms McDonald to do more than saying Mr Stanley’s comments have been “withdrawn” and “move on”.
Asked if there should be sanctions against Mr Stanley either by Sinn Féin or the Dáil, Mr Howlin said: “I think all of us were depressed, quite frankly, that yet again we have the private thoughts of senior members of Sinn Féin bubbling to the surface as if it’s sort of suppressed and on occasions it bubbles up.
“We want inclusive politics and that means that there is no space for people want to glorify violence. That is not part of normal politics,” he added.
Mr Howlin said it’s a “test” for Sinn Féin “to see are these things just going to constantly emerge – as if there is a public face and a private face of Sinn Féin”.
Mr Howlin’s comments were in stark contrast to his party colleague Sean Sherlock who sits on the PAC.
Speaking on RTE Radio One Mr Sherlock said: “it’s important that we don’t let our emotional ties to incidences like Narrow Water and Kilmichael cloud our judgment.”
Responding to these comments, Mr Howlin said the Labour Party should take a “very clear political line” against violence.
Green Party PAC member Neasa Hourigan said the matter is for Sinn Féin. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs are waiting to hear what Mr Stanley says at a PAC meeting due to take place today.
Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll McNeil has said the Sinn Féin chair should rescue himself from the committee.
A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “Brian Stanley has apologised for, and deleted, the insensitive and inappropriate tweet.
“He will also make a statement to the Public Accounts Committee at its meeting tomorrow.”
Source: Irish News